An exhaustive—and sometimes exhausting—analysis of education’s purpose across time, distance, and discipline, by an author who insists, paradoxically, that when it comes to learning, less is more. Gardner, the Harvard psychologist who pioneered the theory of multiple intelligences, gathers evidence from a wide range of fields, including anthropology, psychology, history, and economics, to argue that education’s ultimate goal should be to pass on a culture’s beliefs about three essential subjects, truth, beauty, and morality, to its children. Challenging E.D. Hirsch’s notion of cultural literacy, Gardner claims convincingly that any curriculum that races from “Plato to NATO” merely stuffs students with facts they will rapidly forget. What is needed in the age of the Internet, he says, is an “education of understanding,” one that not only encourages students to “determine what is worth knowing” amidst the blizzard of information now available at the click of a mouse, but also enables them to apply their understanding to new situations. Toward that end, Gardner proposes a K—12 curriculum, grounded in the traditional disciplines and based on just three areas of study: evolution, to illustrate the concept of truth; the works of Mozart, to illustrate beauty; and the Holocaust, to illustrate morality and the depths of evil. Those discussions are edifying in their own right, but Gardner’s dazzling erudition nearly overwhelms his argument. Each of his ideas comes equipped with a host of ways to implement it; virtually every future challenge, right up to the education of human clones, is considered, and all potential criticisms, including the most obvious ones that his plan is idiosyncratic and Eurocentric, are strenuously refuted. Then, almost as an afterthought, Gardner proposes five other educational paths, guaranteed to please everyone from Bill Bennett to Bill Gates. Despite the author’s failure to heed his own minimalist advice, Gardner’s thought-provoking vision of what schools ought to be should interest anyone who is concerned about the way they are now.